I remember graduating from high school. The world felt surreal. I had no idea what was coming. All I knew is that one chapter in my life was closing and a new one was opening. This new chapter would no doubt be different. I got to the college campus at Oklahoma Baptist University and my life would never be the same.
Something I noticed, though, was that my life in the University was about accomplishing the same purpose as my life in high school. Still, even though I have grown more mature, hold a different position and am at a higher point in my own education, my life has the same purpose. That is simply to honor God, love people, and make disciples of all nations. My question, then, is what does a new chapter actually mean in our lives?
Acts 13:1-3 (HCSB)
“In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to. Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.”
Paul, the man who was famous for persecuting Christians and later coming to know Christ on his way to Damascus (Acts 9), was commissioned by his home church in Antioch to go and do the work that God had set apart for him to do. As we read through the book of Acts, we see Paul planting numerous churches and sharing the gospel of Christ with countless individuals. Today, we set time apart so that we can commission our graduates to go and do the work that God has set apart for each of them to do.
Finishing one race to begin another
In Acts, chapter 9, we see the amazing story of Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus Christ and a shifting of his point of view. It was the moment that Paul became a Christian, the moment he began to follow the Christ he had persecuted before. In the first verses of chapter 13, we do not see Paul’s focus shift from Christ. What we see is Paul’s work for the kingdom shifting in character, not motive. Paul’s motive would be to serve God and to reach people with the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, graduates and all others who have ever ended one chapter in life in order to begin another, what exactly does it mean that we close a chapter in our lives?
- Closing one chapter does not mean that work is finished where we currently are, or in the chapter we are closing. As Paul received his commissioning from the church in Antioch, the work of the church in Antioch did not change and did not end. They had the same needs. At this point, with whatever need Paul was fulfilling in the church, there was a need for someone else to step up and fill that role as Paul closed that chapter of his life. For us, this means that we should always remember where we have been and what work we have done in the past, because that work is not done. The work of the Gospel remains the same (that is returning people to the true and holy God). It means that we must always pray for that continuous work as it is being done and that we must pray for those who have been chosen to serve in that work. Not least, we must also remain connected with those who were a part of our lives during that chapter, because the work that has been started in them is not yet finished: just as the work that has been started in each of us has not yet been finished.
- Closing one chapter also does not necessarily mean that new work will begin where we are going. Remember, the work of the Gospel never changes. We may be called upon to continue something that someone else has started. We may be called on to more education. As you go through your next chapter, remember that there is a great need that God will use you to fill if you are willing, and I hope that you are.
- Closing a chapter in our lives means simply this, that we shift our focus as we work in the Gospel on to things that we have been prepared for. For those graduating, this means that through this educational season you have been better prepared to reach a lost and dying world for Christ. Now, we move on to the greater things that we have been prepared for. We use the greater preparation we have received as a greater platform on which to do the work of the Gospel.
So, what does it mean that we begin another chapter? A new chapter in our lives is nothing more than a continuation of our current work, though our focus may shift, our motive remains the same because the work of the Gospel never changes.
Paul’s mission and ours
Each of us is called to serve in a certain arena of life. We are to use our talents, our interests and our education to advance God’s kingdom in the hearts and minds of people. As you move on to high school, brothers and sisters, remember your first love: remember Christ and what Christ has done for you. Above all, follow God’s direction and be a faithful witness for Christ. I am convinced that in whatever the people of God do, they should be the greatest because they serve God in their doing. We do not work for money or for recognition. We work for God no matter what it is we are working at. If you go on to play sports, be the greatest in Christ’s name. If you go on to play in a band or join a debate club, be the greatest in Christ’s name. So, with whatever you do, go and be the best at what you are doing and do it for our God! Christ’s work in us and through us is important and urgent. We should go without hesitation, being quick to perform the work of the Gospel. We should not forget that we have been prepared for more than what we have been doing. We always increase our service and increase our platform for the work of the Gospel.
Those who are not graduating
For those who are not graduating today and moving on to the next stage that God has prepared. The challenge for us is to remain steadfast. Paul and Barnabas were ministering to the Lord and fasting before they were commissioned to go on their first missionary journey. My question for us is, are we striving to be faithful to God and serve Him where we are?
It may be the case that God has a calling to place on our lives and keeps it from us because we have not been good stewards where we are. It may also be the case that God has us exactly where He desires us to be and we haven’t found fulfillment because we are not actively serving. If you know Christ and are not committed and involved in a local church, my plea is that you find a local church to serve in so that the Gospel might be heard through your service and felt in your love. How can we love God well if we forsake the coming together of His people? How can we love the world well if we do not even love our brothers and sisters? Our service in a local church is so important to our own faith and our own relationship with God.
It may also be the case that there are those reading this who have not accepted Christ as their savior and lord. My hope is simple, that today you would ask Christ to give salvation and dedicate your life to Him as your Lord. Romans 10:9 states that if we believe in our hearts that Jesus was raised from the dead and if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved. Eternal life is available to anyone who would accept it, no matter how imperfect. A place in God’s kingdom is available to all who would accept it. A place in this great work of the Gospel is available to anyone who would accept it. Let us not forget that the greatest persecutor of Christ became the greatest missionary of his time. This is Paul, whom we just read about. This only happens as a result of grace and that grace is available. Paul, who persecuted Christ so intently, became so convinced that Christ was worth it that he gave up everything to follow Christ.
Let us all go, love people, and make disciples of all nations.